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There will be change but the channel is constant

Plenty of vendors are changing their partner programmes but as Billy MacInnes looks at recent examples he concludes all are looking for a long future relationship with partners

There’s a tendency to talk about the channel as an amorphous entity, a bloc that sits between the vendor and the customer that fulfils certain duties in the supply chain. But it can be more complex and varied than that.

If you want to get a grasp of just how diverse it is, you can’t do much better than look at the stories which featured on the MicroScope website between 16 and 18 January. Out of eight stories, four concern the channel strategies of different vendors. Each of them, in turn, is different from the other.

In one, Dell is trying to encourage partners to focus more on hyper converged <>, while SAP wants to help partners that sell SME cloud services.

Meanwhile, Cisco is keen for its distribution partners to its channel reach and, perhaps more radically, Riverbed is making big changes to its partner programme.

What’s interesting is that each, in its own way, illuminates an aspect of the ongoing relationship between vendor and channel partner. They also demonstrate just how normal that relationship is. Each involves the vendor seeking ways to increase their engagement and business with channel partners. As such, they demonstrate that vendors are clear in their minds that the channel isn’t going anywhere soon.

So that has to be viewed as a healthy endorsement of the important role that channel partners play for vendors in supplying and supporting their products.

The Riverbed story is slightly different because it appears to be taking a more active interest in the changing nature of the relationship between partners and customers. Managed services, the cloud, the shift from Capex to Opex and the demand for a more ‘consultative’ selling process are, according to Riverbed, forcing “a complete mindset shift”.

What this means is a change from the traditional certification approach (usually platinum, gold, silver and bronze) towards areas such as new customer acquisition, penetration of the installed base, everything as a service and partners investing in the vendor’s capabilities. According to Riverbed, this removes the need for up front investment and results in a simple, flexible programme that can help drive profitability.

While stripping out the certification process could be considered fairly radical, most of the areas identified by Riverbed aren’t particularly new (for the most part, they’re common sense), and have been covered before in other partner programmes.

However radical we might think certain changes might be to partner programmes, the fact they are happening to those programmes merely reinforces their value. No one is seeking to scrap their programmes. In all cases, they are aiming to strengthen their relationship with partners or to increase the number of partners they deal with.

Which suggests that while there will always be changes to the schemes that govern the relationship between vendors and their partners, those changes are nearly always designed to ensure they continue to exist in one form or another into the future.

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